The past couple weeks we have seen many different testimonies that have been pointing out who Jesus is. The testimonies of John the Baptist and the first few disciples all show that Jesus is the Christ and God in flesh. I ended last week by making urging you to reach out to someone if you do not know who Jesus is. This week we see what it means to find salvation. We get the first real teaching Jesus offers in the Gospel.
After Jesus cleanses the Temple of the vendors in the previous chapter, in the dark of night, a man comes to see Jesus. This is not an ordinary man, because he is recognized as being a Pharisee. The Pharisees were one of the most influential sects within Judaism at the time of Christ. They had a heavy emphasis on tradition and the Law of Moses. This group was probably leading the conflict at the end of John 2. As we will see in a later chapter, this is not even a normal Pharisee, but rather on of their leaders. Under the cover of night, he comes to Jesus, not to cause conflict, but to learn from this man who has authority he has never experienced before.
“Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”
— John 3:2, NASB
Yet, Nicodemus’ question shows that he does not fully grasp who Jesus is. First he called him “Rabbi” and says that Jesus is a “teacher.” These are not titles that convey an understanding that Jesus is God. Jesus then tests the faith of Nicodemus by telling him “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3, NASB). Nicodemus goes to the impossibility of such a statement pointing to the fact that a person cannot reenter the womb, and Jesus points to the spiritual truth that he is speaking of. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6, NASB). Jesus is teaching that it is not a rebirth he is speaking of, but a birth that people can experience after their physical birth. This second birth is what makes us spiritually alive. Paul wrote about this in his letter to the Colossians, “You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins” (Colossians 2:13, NLT). Frustrated, Nicodemus asks how these teaching can be, which Jesus responds by telling him that it is because he has not experienced the truth.
“Saving faith is an immediate relation to Christ, accepting, receiving, resting upon Him alone, for justification, sanctification, and eternal life by virtue of God’s grace.”
— Charles Spurgeon
This third chapter ends with John the Baptist teaching about who Jesus is. There is a conversation that erupts around his disciples and surrounding Jews. We know from John 1 that many people believed that John the Baptist was the Christ. Here John states once again that he is not the Christ. His testimony further points to Jesus being from God, and speaking as God. He says, “For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He give the Spirit without measure” (John 3:34, NASB) and “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36, NASB).
“If Jesus is the Son of God, his teachings are more than just good ideas from a wise teacher; they are divine insights on which I can confidently build my life.”
— Lee Strobel
The thing that seems to jump out and grab me about this chapter is the misunderstandings of who Jesus is. The first couple of chapters show us men and women who see and immediately believe that Jesus is something new. In this chapter Nicodemus thinks of Jesus as a teacher. This reminds me of a lot of the way some non-believers think about Jesus. I have heard some people say Jesus was a “good man,” a “good teacher,” and a “good philosopher.” What all of these understandings have in common is that Jesus is just a man with some good ideas on how to live your life. The problem with these misunderstandings is that Jesus did not give generic teachings about how to live your life the best way possible. He was God in flesh, paid the price for our sins, so we could receive eternal life with God. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:16-17).
As we move forward in this study, we will begin to see Jesus interacting with people and turning their world upside down. That’s what Jesus does when we come to him. So contemplate the difference between the person you were, and the person you are. As always, please leave a comment and let’s have a conversation.